There are two SMS based news services for mobile phone users in Sri Lanka. Both offer news alerts through SMS in English, but not in Sinhala or Tamil. JasmineNewswires was the first to introduce this means of news reporting and dissemination in Sri Lanka, with Reuters following in 2007.
I’ve reviewed JNW news before on this blog and also looked at the performance of both SMS news services during the tsunami alert in September 2007. Chamath Ariyadasa, from JNW, has also penned his insightful experiences of SMS news reporting at the time of the tsunami alert here.
What follows is a list of messages I received, with the time I received them, on a recent incident involving the LTTE and the SL Army in Yala, a couple of hundreds kilometers away from Colombo. While on occasion, JNW and Reuters news alerts were seconds apart, the specificity of JNW’s first alert, which included the name of the location of the incident, took around 45 minutes for Reuters to mention as well.
As SMS news alerts grow in popularity and because their reporting increasingly affect perceptions and responses on the ground amongst a wider group of people, it’s important that media monitoring initiatives also look at JNW and Reuters alerts on Dialog with the same scrutiny as traditional / mainstream print and electronic media.
15 October 2007
JNW, 7.28pm – Gunfire heard near Army detachment in Thalgasmankada near Yala National Park, says mil official. No details yet.
Reuters, 7.30pm – Gunshots heard about 30 to 40 km from Kataragama, Military investigating – Brig Udaya Nanayakkara
Reuters, 8.11pm – LTTE attacking army detachment in Thalgasmankadawa 40km from Kataragama, reinforcement troops sent, no details available – Brig Udaya Nanayakkara
JNW, 8.36pm – Army point in Thalgasmankada, south of Panama, comes under LTTE attack, says Mil Spokesman. Troops sent in as reinforcements
JNW, 10.37pm – Def Ministry says troops successfully foil attack at Army point south of Paanama; withdrawing LTTE cadres also fired at Wildlife Dept jeep
16 October 2007
Reuters, 7.42am – Reinforcement troops reach Thalgasmankadawala detachment, find 6 dead bodies & 1 injured soldier. 2 more missing – Brig Udaya Nanayakkara
JNW, 8.00am – After attack at Army point south of Paanama, bodies of six soldiers found, one soldier inj, searching operation in progress-mil spokesman
Reuters, 9.05.30am – Explosion now in Yala kills 1 soldier, injures 3 when tractor carrying dead bodies hits pressure mine close to Thalgasmankadawala
JNW, 9.05.46am – Tractor gets caught to pressure mine laid near Thalgasmankada camp near Yala; claims one soldier, three soldiers injured, says Mil Spokesman